In true David Lynch form, Michael Arcos’ latest project is shrouded in mystery. The underground filmmaker isn’t giving away many details about “Bus to Lumberton.” The art installation and performance piece is directed by Arcos in homage to Lynch’s neo-noir cult classic, “Blue Velvet,” filmed in Wilmington.
Arcos isn’t the first to take on Bus to Lumberton. It’s become a tradition for Cucalorus to invite an artist to reinterpret the 1986 Lynch film in what the festival describes as a “mind-blowing” immersion experiment in an artificial world. In essence, participants may not feel entirely comfortable. As for Arcos, participants can expect a “dark ride.”
“For me, ‘Blue Velvet’ is a really important film,” he says. “It incorporates all the cinematic elements I’d want to see: fear, mystery, being turned on a little bit, and left with more questions than answers. I want to bring all of that to this tour.”
Arcos’ tour starts downtown and makes stops at locations where scenes from “Blue Velvet” were filmed. For those not as familiar with Lynch’s cult classic, Wilmington hot spots like Barbary Coast, Carolina Apartments, Sunset Park, and a warehouse on Front Street (now home to Freaker USA headquarters) all can be seen in the neo-noir mystery. However, no locations for the tour are confirmed—it’s a secret, after all.
What Arcos did reveal is who will be joining him. He has invited Yamil Rodriguez, an installation and performance artist based in New Orleans, who, like Arcos, is focused less on the direction of his performers and more on developing an immersive environment that creates a narrative. Most recently Rodriguez directed “Abuse,” where audience members were led into an abandoned strip mall to witness a toxic relationship unfold in reverse.
Joining Rodriguez is Los Angeles-based actress Betsy Holt, who Arcos describes as “fearless.” The actress-turned-writer recently scripted a film based on personal photographs and phone calls recorded by Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander.
But it’s Arcos that truly captivates. He grew up in sunny Miami where he attended Miami Southridge High School, known more for its athletics than its output of promising filmmakers. But it was in the high school’s old video production lab that he got his start. He used VHS-based programs, to learn how to edit and make video collages on tape.
The quality and aesthetic of VHS film stuck with Arcos. After dabbling in sound design and music production, he went on to learn, shoot and process 16mm film. His goal: “to utilize video and images to tell stories and create narratives.”
In his tour/art installation/performance piece, dark and obscure narratives reign. His film “Dream Throat” will make an appearance as well. Arcos, along with producer (as well as friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-ex-girlfriend) Marnie Ellen, created “Dream Throat” to explore the history and hauntings of a single room. In a hotel room, tenants change but the viewer remains. “Dream Throat” focuses on altercations and ambiguity of the visitors’ relationships within a singular space. Simply put, the viewers are the subject of the experiment, enduring and participating in a brief document of desperation, curiosity and the search for connectivity in the form of emotional and physical resolve. Arcos employs these concepts for Bus to Lumberton and participants should prepare. “It’s going to be a punch in the gut, for sure,” he warns.
At least Dan Brawley, executive director of Cucalorus Film Foundation, thinks so. He attended a screening of “Dream Throat” in Baltimore and immediately proposed the idea to Arcos. He suggested incorporating elements from Arcos’ current project into the mix. Thus, “Blue Throat”—a working title for the 2015 Bus to Lumberton, according to Arcos—was born.
To keep the tour personal, Arcos is accepting RSVPs for small groups of four to seven people, with tours happening every half-hour from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. The reservation line is 985-790-ROSE.
“Inevitably, it’s very easy to extract I am a fan of David Lynch,” he says. “As a filmmaker, his work is really liberating, especially now. He’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing and is creating films and visuals without anyone holding him back. . . . His elements of fear, mystery, sexuality, and grotesque imagery—I think it’s commentary on maybe how he perceives the world, and I can relate to that.”
Also catch Arcos and Marnie Ellen’s short, “No Parents,” screening on Saturday at Jengo’s Playhouse at 4:15 p.m., which will show before “Female Pervert.”